Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bad Day

Today's lesson went fine. We were supposed to work on my form, but as is typical, we ended up working on Brego. Brego was jumping fine, bored, but better than usual in the home arena. I don't know what happened, but my position fell apart.

When I got home and looked at the pictures, I actually cried. I don't think I have ever looked so bad in my life. Some pictures were just awful. I was pivoting over my knee, my leg swung back, and I jumped ahead. And somehow, the only comment I got from my trainer about my position was that I was hitting the back of the saddle and to stay up more. Once again, watching Brego was more fun than watching me.

So I don't know. I feel like it's not working. Total breakdown. After I calmed down, I studied the photos again. I think I might have some clue as to my crazy elbows.

There they are... taking flight again.

What is up with those elbows?? I know I want to do a following release at verticals, with some contact and support to get Brego off the ground. But why are my reins so long that when I take up contact while forward at the fence, I have to bend my elbows like that?? Well, it might just be that a fraction of a second earlier on the approach, Brego put his head down.

Checking out the tiny fence?

I have talked with many professionals about this and everyone assures me it's a good thing. And yes, it gets better as the fences get larger because he doesn't have to drop his head to his knees to see the top pole. But look at my reins. My arms are completely extended, I am even giving with my fingers, and he has still absorbed all the slack. And then when it comes time to jump...


Let's take a closer look...


I am not hanging on his face. In fact, in all the pictures, you could see contact in the reins, but the sides of his mouth were not stretched. I go from not enough rein to too much rein in less than a second and to keep the feel, I just absorb it back with my elbows as far as they will go.

What a bizarre problem. I think I am going to do some grids on my Thoroughbred (a much more consistent jumper who does not drop her head before fences) and work on a heavy crest release that I can push off of. Hopefully that will get my upper body back, give my hands something to do instead of take up the slack. And Brego should be fine over spreads with a crest release and he may be getting strong enough to be fine at verticals, too. I don't know, because I always maintain contact off the ground.

Just checking in... How's the breathing? Still with me?

So yea, not exactly brilliant riding, but maybe I might just be on to something with the elbows. And as for the leg... I just don't know. Maybe I just can't ride fences.

On that note, how about some nice sitting trot?

Highlight of the day: Flatwork


leah said...

bad day or good day - what a beautiful backdrop in your outdoor arena! I'm jealous!

(i think you're spot on for the long reins by the way)

dp said...

Aw...take it easy on yourself. Pictures are fantastic for helping you to identify problems -- they should not make you cry. I think you are on to something with the elbows. I have never seen a horse look at fences that way, or maybe it's just exaggerated because he is so big.

McFawn said...

Can you lower your arms, bend your elbows and do more an automatic release (lower, on either side of the neck). The problem I see is not the snatching of the reins as how high your hands seem.

You could follow that low head stuff and the jump itself with lower hands not planted on the crest. Right now, your hands are too high/too far back so you have to feed out a ton of rein for him to use himself. If you did an automatic and/or short relase you would have a more direct line with his mouth and wouldn't have to make such big rein adjustments for his style.

I think a crest release makes you too ustable through your body because your horse has a very round style. Sure, if you rode a horse with a flatter jump, you could stick to that, but I think you should ask your instructor about working on a release that isn't balanced on his neck. I think jumping without reins would help you more than anything else--maybe you can do that on the schoolhorse?

Your horse is a really good jumper--some of these issues you're having are because he jumps with a lot of flair and style. Never feel too badly about your riding because your riding faults are not very hard on the horse. He always looks like he's having a good time!

Daun said...

Do you think I could do an automatic release and still follow? I worry my hands would go to below his withers and the reins would still be too long. Plus, I am worried I will collapse my upper body.

But I love the way you think, so I am going to work on this today on my TB over grids. I hate to do the crest release with the reins all loopy, but I was at a loss. An automatic release, if I can pull it off, would be preferable for sure.

As for my trainer, I am a little frustrated because I asked him very specific questions about my form and did not get a direct answer. I think he's running for President. :) Kidding aside, I asked about my toes, about my release. He wants my hands up because when I drop my hands, Brego seems to drop before the fence. But maybe that is a symptom of a bigger problem which I need to fix with my leg and not with my hands. So much to think about....

Always learning. Thanks again for your awesome comments. I always look forward to your input!!

(I am going to do no hands work over grids on my TB who, at 19, needs less guidance and is a flatter jumper. She's still got plenty of scope, but compared to Brego, she's an easier ride.)

sidetracked said...

I know how you feel about sometimes having your position fall apart. I recently competed at the Maine Medals and it was not my brst equitation at all. it was raining and miserable and when I look at the pics I was what I think all over the place. Don't be too down on yourself, we all have good and bad days. Keep it fun and keep it simple and everything else will fall into place.

jessica morthole said...

We are all that hard on ourselves! I too write a blog on one of the CANTER horses and I cringe at some of the pictures but then others are good. Self critique is a good thing.

I remember the thread about your boy on COTH and yes I think it is a sign of a good jumper when they lower their head and neck and then push up with the hind end but it is difficult to ride. You have to follow with the hands/elbow but wait with the body.

I do not think you can hold his head up more by keeping your hands higher. I have always been taught that the stride before the fence belongs to the horse and I should follow with my arms but wait with the body to allow them to make the best jumping effort. This means allowing the hand to go forward and down.

If I had to guess I would think you might be standing in your stirrups which is causing you to pinch with your knee and the jump ahead of the motion. You want to wait with your hips and just allow the horse to close your angles so that you are not jumping for him with your body. One thing that helps me is just to think wait with my body and allow my hands to do an auto release by sliding down and forward. I am still working on it!

Don't be to hard on yourself! Any chance you could work a bit with another trainer? I also event but take most of my jumping lessons with a hunter/jumper trainer who is really tough on position.

Love your stories!

Daun said...

Thanks for your comments! Brego IS hard to ride over fences. The few that have dared always walk away telling me I make him look easy. He's not!

As for the standing in stirrups thing, do you mean you stay in a half seat closer to the tack on take off and then let the horse come up under you? Or do you remain completely seated? I am trying to understand your meaning so I can really work on it.

The reason I ask is that I started in more of a half seat and then my trainer told me to stand up in the stirrups more. So I am trying to figure out what works for me.

As for my trainer... he IS a hunter eq trainer. Most of his clients went to the NH and Maine medal classes. We started working on my form, but then he just focuses on Brego. Hard to blame him. When a 1400 lb big BLACK horse is jumping around, it's hard to focus on whether my hands are 5" too high. I am going to take Brego out of the equation though because I also suspect, looking at some of the pictures, that his big barrel is also interfering with my leg. I mean, I am spread WIDE over fences.

Just more random thoughts. Thanks for your input and please feel free to elaborate and share more of your thoughts!!

jessica morthole said...

I stay more in a 1/2 seat but it all depends on the horse and what level they are at. On the greenies I am in my 1/2 seat close to a 3pt and on the more advanced guys that have enough strength to hold a good canter I will sit but try to sit lightly. Then as they go to leave the ground I just stay right where I am at and try not to do anything. I almost think about crouching down a bit so I stay over my tack and I push down into my feet to keep my leg solid.

Yes, I imagine he is difficult and wide :) Your TB probably feels completely different which is why it is so hard to adapt to the different horses. I am riding five horses right now and every one of them goes differently and likes a different ride. I feel really out of sorts sometimes but if I just focus on the canter and nothing else but waiting for the jump to come to me my position is much better.

Maybe just a bit more bent in your angles when in the half seat. It looks like you might be a bit to straight in your leg which is making you stand.

I almost have to slow down my mind. Sometimes if I just think about my release everything else falls into place. Dropping my hands and keeping my shoulders up keeps me centered and I do not pivot on my knee.

Everybody says grids are the best exercise to work on position but I can nail it through grids it is keeping it together for every single jump throughout the course.

I bet you get tired having to package that big boy. I find it amusing how I can look horrible on one horse yet so much better on another and most of the times it has to do with the way the horse jumps or leaves the ground.

Daun said...

Thanks for your thoughtful followup. It crystalized my mental image.

Much to think about!

Wiola said...

Daun, next time you jump try to put your hands flat against his neck, palm to the neck, left hand on the left side of the neck and right on the right. Gently press inwards (gently!) and keep the pressure unchanged.
Ride like this over grids and observe what your body has to do to allow for your hands to stay where they are.
The problems you have are often the result of lack of core stability & strength in the rider - the more athletic the jumper, the more pronounced the bascule the more the weak core shows. In other words you are "helping" yourself over the jump with your shoulders/arms/elbows instead of leaving this job to your body.
Observe the flexibility of your hips, watch that you don't hollow your back (keep your core muscles engaged - belly button towards your spine) - improve the way you follow your horse (ie sort out your leg position etc) as only when the core is strong the extremities will follow.
You will notice that some top notch show jumpers also leave their elbows like that from time to time - usually this happens when they jump against the clock or on an awkward take off - exactly when they "needed" that additional help as weren't quick/agile enough at that moment in time.

P.S. I love the background in your pictures!!!!

Anonymous said...

Aw Daun, try not to be so hard on yourself. I know everyone else has already said the same but I had to say it too :) I know how you feel though. I do the same. My instructor has even called me out on it telling me I'm a perfectionist and to just relax if I have not so good of a ride it's not that serious. You're not being dangerous to yourself or the horse.
So you had a bad day, but you're going HUNTING this weekend and getting lots of pics!!! :P

Meaghan said...

I think you are being too hard on yourself. I think doing some gymnastics with your Tb is a great idea, and make sure you do them without stirrups a few times. Also something I picked up from reading George Morris Jumping Clinic in Practical horseman is shorten your stirrups a hole, that will help you use your calves to support your body. Your elbows are tricky, if you focus on them too much you could end up interfering with his mouth. I think because he does use his head and neck so well when jumping start trying for a longer crest release rather then an automatic one. Once you get more comfortable with your crest realeases then start working on your automatic. Good luck Hope this gives you some food for thought

Bev said...

Have you tried Pilates? I have recently been attending classes in an effort to improve my riding. Besides improvement in core strength and flexibility, I have found it clears my head of extraneous thoughts and increases body awareness.

I realize time might be a problem now but you may want to try it when your life slow down a bit.

Daun said...

Wiola, Meaghan, Bev,
You are all on the right track, I think. It IS about strength and my core and I think that, since Brego is such a big mover/jumper, I have to be that much stronger.

The elliptical trainer has helped, I can see in the pictures that I am trimming down and my leg is better. But the core is key. And yes, Bev, pilates is on the list this winter!!

In two short months, I am going to have more time than I know what to do with, only riding twice a week and pilates, reading, studying are all on the list.

So Wiola, can I entice you to come give me a lesson? :)

I so desperately need training.

Daun said...

Stacey, Thanks! I promise to post pictures from the hunt!

Wiola said...

Tehe - I would love to :) If I had the money I would be on a plane right now :) One day!
You are doing great though! I can definitely see improvement on your videos and pictures!
You know, I noticed that sometimes, when you are getting better, you look worse for a bit (as if half of your body was still trapped in the level below and the other half is already a step above - combined they make you look a mess). If you persevere, that weak half stuck in lower level catches up and you are there looking for more things to improve...

Daun said...

I sincerely hope you are right and I will see some improvement soon.

Thanks for the vote of confidence!

Beckz said...

I was going to wade in but I'm too tired. Your doing ok on a horse who isn't easy. I would suggest not riding in a half seat or two point, and staying in your saddle to keep your weight more centered and to help him keep his forehand light. Also don't force your weight so much down your heels before the fence and let your leg rotate out. A solid leg position will mean it doesn't matter where your arms are.